Food safety sucks in Australian capital: auditor

Canberra’s food safety inspection regime is being undermined by poor record keeping, staff shortages and a “reactive” approach to enforcing hygiene standards in the city’s restaurants, according to an Auditor General’s report.

The Canberra Times reports the auditor also found that ACT Health had no policies or procedures in place to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks, despite having to cope with four outbreaks, on average, annually between 2004 and 2009.

Auditor General Maxine Cooper found that there had been a “sharp” 30 per cent decline in scheduled inspections for food businesses and that the Health Protection Service had been unable to achieve its own targeted for the number or frequency of inspections.

At one point early in 2011, the agency was forced to hire contractors to cover gaps in the ranks of its inspectors so it could carry on checking the compliance of the city’s restaurants.

In some cases, the audit found, the records kept by the Health Protection Service were not even good enough for auditors to form a view on the agency’s performance.

“There are shortcomings in the regulation and administration of food safety that need to be addressed to provide the community with assurance that the food they buy and eat is safe,” the Auditor General concluded.